Can suicide as euthenasia for depression sufferers be justified?

I’m simply wondering if it isn’t just irrational emotions that makes people want to talk people out of suicide, no matter how much they really want to die. I personally tried to talk my friend out of it once, but I didn’t really disagree with him on anything that he said, I pretended.

Let’s say I don’t like living, have felt that way for a long time and decide to end it all rather than be a depressed burden of a wreck for my family to deal with? Why would I wrong to do that? (BTW, this doesn’t have anything to do with the friend I mentioned earlier.)

Just felt like opening up a can of worms for once, I think people tend to avoid confronting issues like this. I know I do, both on and off the boards.

— G. Raven

(Note: I use the word “You” in a general sense in this post and not directed at Morrison’s Lament or any particular reader.)

Barring terminal illness (and a painful one at that) I don’t see how suicide should be considered a reasonable option by anyone.

It is not for you to decide you are a burden to others. You may very well be but you are also probably important to others as well (ever see It’s a Wonderful Life?). Suicide is merely giving-up and quitting when things get rough and placing the burden on those you leave behind (wondering what they did wrong or what else they could have tried to prevent such a thing).

Suicide is a SELFISH act…not a selfless act.

Sometimes things look pretty bleak and living can be pretty painful. I’ve been there before myself and considered suicide (although never seriously and I never came close to acting on it). In the end you tough it out and things get better. If you absolutely can’t shake the depression then you should seek out professional help and/or the help of friends and family.

Life is short even if you live to be 100. No need to hasten things on your own.

My sister-in-law is suffering from depression right now. So should we just ignore the problem? Hey, if she wants to kill herself, what does that have to do with us? Live and let, uh, live.

Don’t be stupid. Of course we help her, since depression is a physical illness. Her depression has nothing to do with whether her life is good or bad, it is a result of a neurotransmitter imbalance.

Depression is a mood altering condition, the closest comparison to it at it’s suicidal stage would be a person suffering from delirium during a physical sickness. Perhaps even the emotional crying jag a person who is real drunk can go on.

We try to talk them out of suicide because we are human and compassionate towards each other, though, admittedly, not all of us. We understand that their condition will improve with treatment, just as the crying drunk will be better when he/she sobers up, and that the suicidal urges are a symptom of the illness, therefore inappropriate.

It doesn’t matter that what they tell us as reasons justifying their suicidal intentions might be really good, because the natural instinct of any normal human being under reasonable conditions is to survive. To wish to die while still reasonably physically healthy is not normal, therefore it is a temporary symptom of an illness.

We will patiently care for a person suffering from any number of physical illnesses that they can recover from, even if in delusion they wish to die, because we understand that the wish is not real, it is part of the pneumonia, the flue, small pox or diphtheria. We will work to keep them alive and healing.

The same goes with depression, only it is more insidious, because most depressed people seem just fine. They do not look sick. Plus, there is a form of depression known as Smiling Depression, where the person appears outwardly happy, but in reality is inwardly miserable. It sometimes is problematic for another to realize just how depressed a suicidal person can be.

A person discussing suicide is usually acting on an instinctive, automatic impulse to get help, without actually knowing it most of the time. A determined suicidal person often will decide what to do, perform a certain ritual, then go and carry it out without telling anyone.

Therefore, if your friend discusses suicide with you, he is seeing, without knowing it, a reason to live. That does not indicate that he is not going to kill himself though. Depressives can discuss suicide a few times, then go out and do it if the depression is deep.

If he is not under therapy, get him to a therapist and onto antidepressants fast! Run him through the local ER if necessary.

Uh, sorry, I mean she.

That’s a really interesting question.

I’m going to assume that what you’re talking about is severe and completely intractable depression. No combination of drugs, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy (yes, they still do it), or other treatment can make this person well enough to consider life worth living.

If that’s the case, then I can see where death might be a favorable alternative. Of course, you’ll never get a physician to agree that everything possible has been done, so anything physician-assisted or recommended is out of the question. But in the theoretical case in which someone’s depression has no chance of getting even marginally better, I would understand.

Fortunately, we can do a lot for depression these days, so it isn’t a likely situation.

I agree that suicide is a selfish act on the patient’s part, but in this case I think it would be equally selfish for the family/friends to ask the person to go on living in agony.

Dr. J

Just wanted to say thanx for the answers!

DoctorJ thanks for being especially open minded about the question, it’s a VERY touchy subject with most people and sometimes it’s hard to get to any facts among the emotions. Having lost my aforementioned friend, I can testify to the fact that his suicide has actually driven people to talk LESS frankly about such matters around those who knew him. Whatever happened to creating awareness?

BTW, are you a real doctor? If so, what’s your stance on euthenasia in general and when enough is enough?

The amount of suffering in a persons life is completely subjective and not always brought on by a chemical or neurotransmitter imbalance. Sometimes life is pain.

My grandmother has been miserable for 20 years, ever since her husband died. At first, she got through by being useful, which was always important to her. She is now in her 90’s, has bad arthritis, can barely walk and is almost totally deaf. The pain meds for the arthritis make her sick. She can no longer be useful. She gets enjoyment out of nothing.

Now, if she decided to check herself out(which she wouldn’t do, I’m just using her as an example), who am I to say that it was a bad decision? Who am I to tell her that she must endure years more pain? Sometimes death is a blessing.

ML–I’m a third-year medical student, so I’m a little over a year from an MD.

Euthenasia is a tricky subject. I support the idea in theory, but I don’t like the idea of actual physician-assisted suicide. I don’t know how comfortable I could be in taking steps that would absolutely and deliberately result in a patient’s death.

What I am more comfortable about is the “double effect” idea. That is, if a terminal patient is in tremendous, intolerable pain, the doctor is justified in prescribing whatever dose of pain medication is necessary to alleviate the pain, even if death is a foreseeable or even likely side effect. This assumes, of course, that all parties are aware of the situation and are comfortable with that outcome.

Between hospice programs and zealous pain management, I believe that euthenasia/PAS should be a moot point. No patient should have to live in intolerable pain, and if it comes down to it, the patient should be able to choose between living with the pain and risking death to alleviate it.

Dr. J

Despite the unpopularity of my opinion, I will state it anyway. A rational person should always be able to decide to end their own life.

Depression may or may not make someone irrational, and of course suicide is a “last option”, but that option should be open, selfish act or not.

I think that euthanasia should be available for those whose life has no forseeable way of improving (elderly people with parkinsons and arthritis and pain coming first to my mind). As I see it, people suffering from depression have a wide range of options to try and overcome this. Some of my friends have been on antidepressants and in therapy. The point is that depression is an illness that people can cure themselves of. This means that their life can improve. So I don’t think that euthanasia is applicable to depression sufferers.

I also am suprised that more governments aren’t behind authanasia. What a way to cut down on the medical care budget for the elderly! :wink:

Good idea. Let us eliminate all the people who are down and depressed, in order to leave the world to only happy people thinking happy thoughts all day. Never a person should feel depressed, lest that person finds Dr. Kervorkian knocking on that door. Also, while we are at it, let’s kill off the elderly and sick, for they are a drain in the budget, and for the most part succeed making others feel down. Kill them all off in order to help the living think happy, happy, happy. Let me see that smile now, good. Remember, don’t worry, be happy y’all.


The problem with that is that suicidal thoughts are symptomatic of depression, as is a lack of hope for the future. As long as there is hope for a meaningful recovery, I’d say that a desire to die is inherently irrational.

FloChi–yes, we can do a lot for depression, and that’s why I preceded my answer with the conditions that I did. That’s why I don’t think you would ever find a doctor to agree that everything has been done and there is no hope for recovery.

capacitor–The last time I saw that many straw men in one place, I was in a Wizard of Oz gift shop.

Dr. J

I just have to state my view on a couple of points here, since I started this thread:

Of course you won’t find a doctor who will agree that everything has been done for any seemingly non-terminal patient. The problem is they have no way of estimating the amount of pain that the mentally ill are experiencing. It’s all so subjective, as has been mentioned earlier.

Now, Capacitator’s apparent sarcasm indicated that he thought I was talking about simply “feeling down/depressed”. That happens to everyone, we wouldn’t have much of a population if death was the only way out of mental pain.

However I believe that mental patients such as the chronically depressed (say, someone that has been completely miserable for most of their life and constantly entertain thoughts of suicide. Sadly, I’ve met such people!)

I just don’t see why this person should be forced to go on, just because those close to him would feel shock and sorrow (admittedly horrible things to experience, as I have). If someone has tried every conceivable medical option, endless drugs (the prescribed ones!) and counseling, what makes you think that person has a reasonable chance to be happy for the rest of his life, or at least more of it than would be lost to despair and pain?

I have lost a VERY close friend from suicide, and I don’t believe he saught any serious medical options, so I was against it. However, I have since become very interested in psychology and social sciences and have had the chance to meet some really lost cases in my time. Some people that were basically walking corpses, but physically OK.
I just don’t see the point of making someone like that endure even more pain, misery and humiliation (some of them have to use crayons instead of pens when they’re in the hospital!) than he doubtless has before in his lifetime.

Anyways, hope this thread doesn’t die before we get a few more words in.

— G. Raven

Although the word euthanasia is in the OP, what we are talking about is assisted suicide, which is something different. And which makes capacitor’s comments moot.

As to DoctorJ’s point:

I agree. The problem is this. There is often no hope for meaningful recovery. Many get terminally ill, and spend the last days, weeks, or months of their lives suffering, as well as becoming a financial burden on loved ones.

For those who attempt to fight through it, bully for them. there are a lot of resources available to them. For those who would rather not face the drugs, surgeries, and other exorbinately expensive therapies and die with some dignity as they define it, that choice should be there for them.

Interesting thought, Morrison.

I don’t get chronically depressed, but I have had a few tastes of depression. Sometimes, deep down in that hopeless pit, suicide seems to be the only relief.

But I agree with Dr. J. There are medications out there. Of course I’ve thought about suicide, hasn’t everyone? But I’ve never really seriously thought of it. If it ever got to that point, it would be prozac for me.

I don’t know if it is possible to get so down that absolutely nothing can help. Still yet, it is an interesting thought. I believe that mental anguish is worse than physical (I mean this in the long run, torture me and I’ll agree that the physical is the worse.)

By the way, I suffer from very chronic depression. I know the suicidal tendecies it brings ; I think of suicide at least 10 times a day. This is on top of what I hae already suffered. But this is more the reason why I am against euthenasia for any reason. I just know that if we have a pro-euthenasia society, the minute I reaveal my depession, I will be ‘mercifully’ put to sleep before too long, in order to ‘relieve’ the pain that I feel.

How about some words from a person that isn’t allowed to have any large amount of medication in her posession? That is a choice I made, even when my shrink began to feel that it was ok to give me more than a weeks worth of tranquilizers at a time.

My mental illness began at an early age. I was on Thorazine from age 6 to 16, and saw a psychologist on a weekly basis, sometimes twice a week. I never got an official diagnosis, and for some reason the psychologist won’t release my records to my current psychiatrist.

I first had suicidal thoughts around age 8. That’s about the time I discovered self mutilation. At first it wasn’t cutting, but just about anything that would cause physical pain. I have scars on my fingertips from shoving needles through them.

My first suicide attempt was at age 10. I tried to hang myself with an electrical cord. The cord broke right after I had lost consciousness.

I started cutting around age 13 and have some nasty scars to show for it. I started drinking then too. I cut because it was a pain that had a specific cause that I could handle. I drank to dull the mental pain that I couldn’t handle. I spent a couple of weeks in the psych hosipital that year.

I quit school at 15. They were glad to see me go because I was becoming violent. I’ll tell you now that if a friend of mine hadn’t saw me walking toward the school one day, the Columbine tragedy would have happened a lot sooner and in my town, because I had two shotguns with me that day and I planned on taking out as many people as I could.

I’m 28 now and I won’t get any better. I will get worse. No amount of medication can stop the progression. How do I know this? Because I can name 8 family members off the top of my head, including my mother and sister and a couple of aunts, that are mentally ill. It runs in my family.

I am fighting with everything I have. I am fighting mental illness and I am fighting to stay alive. My fight costs money and causes a lot of undeserved mental anguish for my family. I do NOT want to become totally incapacitated by this. I certainly don’t want to drop my pants and use a trash can in the mall as a toilet (my aunt did this). I do not want to suffer the indignities that my family members have endured.

I do want to keep my options open, and hope like hell I have just enough sanity left to end it. My luck they would find a cure for all mental illnesses the next day.

Why not? Don’t I have the mental capacity to determine that for myself? Some things are pretty obviously a burden. Please don’t sell me the liberal view that “society always knows best” for me, the individual.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is supposed to have some sort of sway with me?

Wow…I don’t even know exactly how to answer this sort of thing without flaming. You mention a couple sentences later that:

And thus here is the problem. You don’t know what you are talking about.

Suicide is not a selfish act. It is an act of desperation when you hurt so badly that you cannot go on. I could expound on this and write pages about the details of the feelings, but I don’t need to. It’s really just that simple. You feel you are desperately caught in a ticking, horrendously painful trap, with no other way out. Simple.

Calling it a “selfish act” and trying to use “tough love” to help suicidal people is at best sorely misguided, and at worst recklessly ignorant.

Oh, wow, is that all I have to do? Just tough it out, or see a psych? Or rely on my family? Gee, I never knew it was so easy!

Like I said before, mon ami. You do not know what you are talking about. It’s not your fault, and in fact, you feel very thankful that you do not know what you are talking about.

Thank you Anthracite, you expressed my feelings on this thread very well. Suicide is not an act of just “giving up” because you are annoyed or something, it is an act of extreme desparation and pain for a variety of reasons.

Even though I do not feel as though people should be shunned from committing suicide, it tears me apart to think that people can exist in such pain and lonliness that people want to kill themselves.